Most of us have a few foods that instantly take us back to childhood, and these cookies are one of them for me. Growing up, my grandmother “Mo” made batches of her famous sand tarts as the centerpiece to our Christmas Eve gathering each year, and I always looked forward to biting into the buttery shortbread and getting covered in powdered sugar in the process. Probably the closest thing we ever got to a “White Christmas” here in Texas.
Over the years, I’ve usually heard them called Mexican wedding cookies, and also Russian teacakes, snowdrops and pecan butterballs. They’re all equally delicious, and as we count down to Christmas, thought it would be fun to share my family’s classic recipe (with a few shots from the Cookie Party in my book.) It couldn’t be easier — only 6 ingredients! Let me know in the comments if you give it a try – also, I’d love to hear about if your family has a traditional Christmas dessert!
*photos by Buff Strickland
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, sifted (divided)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup finely chopped pecans
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter with 1/2 cup of the confectioners sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat to combine. With the mixer on low, gradually add flour, pecans and salt until the dough comes together.
- Scoop dough out by the tablespoonful and use hands to roll into balls. Place balls 1-inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes, watching closely, until cookies are set but before they begin to turn brown. Remove from oven and immediately transfer to wire rack, and let cool for 10 minutes.
- Place remaining powdered sugar in a shallow dish, and roll warm cookies in sugar to coat, then place back on wire racks to cool completely. Once cool, roll the cookies in confectioners sugar once again, and store in an airtight container.
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Hehehe….we call these butterballs. I love them so much, we eat them every year.
great! another name to add to the list… 🙂
Every year at Christmas, my grandma made a candy cane filling for them and then rolled them in a mix of powdered sugar and crushed candy canes. My brother liked his cookies without the nuts in the dough, I liked them with. Both are great!
Yum! That sounds so good… definitely will give it a try. I’m a huge fan of candy cane anything!! xo
The steps listed as 5 & 6 appear to be duplicate of steps 3 & 4. You only bake these cookies once.
Paula — thank you so much for catching that! Just updated the instructions. xoxo
They look so pretty and simple! We have a special Christmas dessert, too – it’s a 5-layer cake. There are layers of dough, nuts, plum jam, curd cheese and poppy seeds with sugar, and it’s the most luxurious, filling and decadent thing I can imagine for a Christmas morning. What makes it even more special is the fact that we only make this cake on Christmas, never throughout the year. My mouth is watering just thinking about it 🙂
I love the sound of your 5-layer cake tradition! Sounds so special and delicious. Hope you enjoy, and thanks for sharing!
My favorite Christmas cookie. The only thing I do differently is I roast the pecan halves for 8 min in 350 oven until fragrant and chop when cool. Nice flavor.
Yum! Agree that toasting does amazing things for the flavor of pecans. Thanks for the tip Michelle! xo
My family calls them pecan sandies. Awww…these bring back sooo many memories. Thanks for sharing!!
Just made these and LOVE them!! Fun and easy to make with my two year old on Christmas Eve! Thank you!! They’ll definitely be part of our family tradition 🙂
Yay!! So excited to hear that! xoxo